By Fryer, Wesley
Technology & Learning , Vol. 24, No. 10
There has long been a power struggle between techies and teachers over classroom computer desktops. IT personnel tend to believe allowing "inept" educators to have unfettered access to their computer's hard drive is an open invitation for trouble. Conversely, teachers often perceive tech support to be "uncaring" adversaries standing in the way of educational innovation. Who's right?
The IT Perspective
>From a technical standpoint, there are many dangers to unrestricted desktop access. Shareware or freeware downloaded by teachers can slow computer performance or cause programs to not work at all. Unauthorized installation of streaming media programs and peer-to-peer file sharing software can bog valuable network space. E-mail worms also pose an ongoing threat, and even seasoned teachers may foolishly open an attachment that starts a malicious chain of damaging activity. Granted, these dilemmas are sometimes caused by students who get access to the teacher's computer. Nonetheless, they leave IT staff wishing for more desktop control and less freedom for all users.
It comes as no surprise, then, that IT staffers believe the best solution is to lock down teacher desktops. In the past, this was achieved through special security software, but now with advanced operating systems like Windows XP and Macintosh OS X, user account settings can be defined so teachers and students are protected from tinkering with the hard drives and networks they work on--for instance, installing bandwidth-taxing software or making configuration changes.
The Teacher View
For less tech-savvy teachers who stay within the comfortable bounds of known computer applications such as e-mail and word processing, desktop control is a non-issue. But when more advanced teachers are restricted from installing programs, they may literally begin pulling their hair out. …